Dropping temperatures and the hibernating sun levy added stress to the immune system in winter.
While you might be focusing on how warm you can keep your hands and feet or if your coat is puffy enough, what you put into your body during wintertime can be just as important as what you put on it.
Nutrients help your body run normal and protect it from the threat of diseases. Ideally, you should get your nutrients from the foods you eat; however that doesn’t happen at all times. Here’s where supplements come into play. Following is a list of vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial to your health this winter. However, do check with your doctor before adding any of these to your regime.
Your body produces this fat-soluble “sunshine” vitamin when your skin is exposed to sunlight (UVB rays from sunshine activate our skin tissue to produce vitamin D). (Click here to read more.) This can be a bit problematic during winters when the days are shorter and it’s too cold to spend a lot of time outdoors. Also, in wintertime, especially for those who live in northern climates, the amount of UVB coming through the atmosphere is very low. That’s when taking extra supplies—supplemental vitamin D or increasing the dietary vitamin D intake—is helpful.
There aren’t many foods that contain vitamin D. Fish, dairy and mushrooms do, but in such small amounts that it can be hard to meet your daily requirement from just eating these foods. The recommended amount needed has changed over the years, however, getting between 600 and 2,000 IU (international units) is safe and can be beneficial. Of course, your doctor can help decide how much is right for you.
Taking a vitamin D supplement has lots of health benefits like healthy bones – since it helps the body absorb calcium and improved resistance against certain diseases. It can also help you fight the winter blues.
Many people swear on vitamin C or ascorbic acid as a magic vitamin that can keep you healthy and happy during the cold and flu season. Although it can’t prevent you from getting colds, it is known to reduce its severity. That’s because vitamin C strengthens your body’s immune system. (Click here to read more.)
This water-soluble vitamin is an antioxidant that helps protect your body from free radicals making it an immune system ally. Thus an apple a day might NOT keep the doctor away in winter, but an orange might…
Since the body does not produce vitamin C, it’s imperative to get it either through diet (such as leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cranberries, citrus fruits and strawberries) or supplements.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin C for men is 90 mg and for women is 75 mg.
Mineral iron produces haemoglobin – a protein responsible for carrying oxygen to your tissues. It also helps regulate your body temperature, which can come in handy when you’re trying to stay warm this season.
So if you’re feeling kinda low in oxygen, as in, fatigued, experiencing cold hands and feet, have brittle nails, or dealing with headaches, enquire from your doctor about adding an iron supplement into your diet. You can also cook up some beans, lentils, leafy greens, beetroot or red meat to add some more iron to what you consume. Jaggery comes in handy in Indian kitchens – rich n’ poor alike.
This essential mineral helps the body’s immune system fight off viruses and bacteria—making it a real MVP during cold and flu season. It helps prevent viruses from adhering to cell walls in the nasal passage and is involved in antibody production – an important immune system mechanism. If you aren’t already taking zinc and feel like you’re getting sick, taking zinc lozenges seem to be a particularly effective method of further zinc supplementation.
The recommended daily amount of zinc for men is 11 mg and for women is 8 mg.
Vitamin E is a vital component to your health — specifically your skin health. Winter weather can cause your skin to get flaky, dry and itchy, but lotions fortified with vitamin E can help your skin hold water keeping it soft, hydrated and resilient. It also helps decrease inflammation, redness and wrinkles. (Click here to read more.)
So while not as an oral supplement in the traditional sense, supplementing your skin routine with some vitamin E does have its benefits. And it’s easy as most lotions contain this skin-protecting vitamin. Just flip the bottle of your favorite moisturizer over and read the ingredients label. St. Ives, Vaseline, Body Shop, Nivea, Biotique, Forest Essentials and Lubriderm all offer lotions with vitamin E.
You’ve probably heard of superfoods. But how about super vitamins? The water-soluble B vitamins fall into the super category as they all aid in cell metabolism — maintain cell health and keep you energized. And yes, I do mean vitamins (plural) because there are different types of B vitamins. In addition to their common function, they individually offer other (different) benefits as well. Collectively known as vitamin B-complex, they include B-12 (cobalamin) which helps regulate your nervous system, B-6 (pyridoxine) helps your body turn food into energy, B-1 (thiamine) and B-2 (riboflavin) also convert what you eat into energy but also laud neurological benefits and support proper eyesight. In the colder months, B-12 is most beneficial, for it can improve your mood and boost your energy.
You can get your winter dosage of Vitamin B in whole grains, red meats, legumes and leafy greens.
Probiotics or fermented foods contain live microorganisms or “good bacteria” that work to improve gut flora and thus enhance your digestive health and immunity levels. Since this is a cold and flu season, there’s no better time to focus on strengthening the immune system by replenishing the gut with these friendly and beneficial bacteria. They support digestive harmony more so in individuals run down with gut issues.
The Takeaway: Vitamins and Minerals Matter
Give your body an extra boost by adding winter vitamins, minerals and supplements to your daily regimen. These supplements do help when it comes to maintaining a healthy immune system, staying warm and fighting the winter blues. They are crucial nutrients to overall health and well-being not just during the winter but all the year-round. However, it’s important to remember that they are no magic pills.
Eating a healthy diet should give you the vitamins you need and supplements should do just that — supplement.
Talk with your doctor about any deficiencies you may be experiencing and figure out the right dosage. By taking just a few extra pills each morning, you could be helping yourself stay healthier n’ happier this winter.
NOTE: Consult your Homoeopath in case you still are experiencing winter blues, allergies (skin or respiratory) or gut issues this season.